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The Los Angeles Lakers appear to have accepted that they will have to earn their place in playoffs via the play-in tournament. The reigning NBA champions can still move higher in the standings and qualify for the playoffs but do they really want it, former NBA star Vince Carter asked rhetorically.

If the Lakers finish as the sixth seed in the Western Conference, they would face the Clippers in the first round. According to Carter, that is the choice that the Lakers need to make and it could be the reason why LeBron James is not playing.

“I think there’s pressure. They could say what they want, there’s some pressure,” Carter said on ESPN’s The Jump. “But with the Lakers it just depends on what they’re trying to accomplish, what seed do they really want. Do they want to get six and play the Clippers or do they want seven and see the Clippers later on. It’s just the path they want. That’s the only way I can wrap my mind about around why LeBron’s not playing right now.

“Because I think, yes he has a lot of final experience and it’s like an old hat form he’s like ‘Hey, I know when it’s time to turn it up. it’s time to turn it up.’ Like he said in his speech. But as a team you just want everybody to be on the same page. Yes we remember how it is with LeBron’s out there and how easy the game is.

“But you still want to have your guys going and playing your best basketball. I don’t care if you’re the Lakers or if you’re Golden State or whoever you are. So that’s my only concern. If they’re healthy, I’m not worried about it. But it just depends on where they want to be in this situation.

“But when you play that game you have to be careful to play in the play-in tournament because you can run against a Steph Curry who can go for 50-60 and it upsets you and puts you in a position where you don’t want to be in.”